Fishing for walleye in the Pacific Northwest is an exciting and rewarding experience. The Columbia river system provides trophy walleye not found in other areas of the United States. Walleye are elusive fish that can be incredibly rewarding to target, especially if you're going after the prized 30" or bigger. Walleye are well known for their light-sensitive eyes and can be difficult to find, but we'll help you find fish and put more in the boat. If you've never fished for walleye before we'll share three techniques you can use to target walleye in the Pacific Northwest.
Vertical Jigging for Walleye
Vertical jigging is arguably the most effective technique for catching walleye in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). This method is exactly what it sounds like - use a jig rigged with bait (usually a nightcrawler or minnow). If you're able to fish from a boat, the goal is to keep your boat moving slightly faster than the current by moving downstream. You'll know you're going fast enough downstream when you're line is straight up and down while jigging. While this isn't a hard and fast rule, it's a good guideline - you'll need to find your own groove to really make it impactful.
- Best Conditions: Ideal in deeper waters or when walleye are holding close to the bottom.
- Tackle Tips: Use a fast action spinning rod to feel the jig's movement and ensure you can detect when a walleye strikes.
- Technique: Keep your boat moving a bit faster than the current, use a series of lifts and falls to mimic injured prey.
Trolling for Walleye
Trolling is a fantastic way to cover a lot of water and is particularly effective in identifying where walleye are schooled up; this is especially effective in the Columbia River and Snake River systems where fish are spread out. This technique involves moving your boat between .5 mph to 3 mph (usually upstream) while dragging a crankbait along the bottom. If you're new to this, don't be afraid to let your crankbaits reach the bottom, it's where the fish are.
- Best Conditions: Great for locating walleye in large, open waters.
- Tackle Tips: Utilize a trolling rod and a reel with a good line capacity.
- Technique: Adjust your speed and depth based on the time of day and water conditions. Walleye can often be found at different depths, depending on light and temperature.
Bottom Bouncing for Walleye
Bottom bouncing is a highly effective technique for targeting walleye, particularly in areas where they feed close to the bottom. This method utilizes a special rig, known as a bottom bouncer, which consists of a heavy wire with a weighted end and a trailing line attached to a lure or bait. The key to this technique is the bottom bouncer's ability to keep the bait at the desired depth while avoiding snags. Similar to vertical jigging, troll your boat downstream around 1-1.5 mph dragging the bottom bouncer and spinner behind the boat. As the boat moves the bottom bouncer 'walks' along riverbed, tapping and bouncing off rocks and other structures.
This movement creates noise and vibrations, which mimic the activity of smaller fish and calls the walleye in. The spinner is positioned just off the bottom and is tipped with a nightcrawler or minnow. When bottom bouncing, you want to see the end of your fishing rod "tick" showing the bottom bouncer is making contact on the bottom. Mastery of this technique allows anglers to effectively target walleye in their most frequented feeding grounds, particularly in areas with complex underwater structures or heavy vegetation where other methods might be less effective.
- Best Conditions: Effective in areas with heavy cover or structures where walleye may be lurking.
- Tackle Tips: Use a heavy enough bottom bouncer to maintain contact with the bottom but light enough to feel bites; we recommend 1oz for every 10' of depth.
- Technique: Slowly troll or drift, allowing the bottom bouncer to tap along the substrate, creating vibrations and noise to attract walleye.
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Each of these techniques has its unique advantages and can be highly effective in the right conditions in the Pacific Northwest. Understanding the behavior of walleye and experimenting with different methods will significantly enhance your fishing experience. Remember, the key to successful walleye fishing is patience, persistence, and adapting your technique to the environment and the fish's behavior.
If you would like to join us on the water for a trophy walleye fishing experience on the Columbia river - reach out to us!